The Paw Print
Penitente Recreation Area:
There are many quick road trips from the Alamosa area that can expand your mind and help you refocus on the (schoolwork) at hand.
Overwhelmed after the first week of classes, I found myself wanting to push the reset button and decided to visit the Penitente Recreation area. I had just met a new guy and invited him to come along. Penitente is a mere one hour northwest of Alamosa, which is a perfect time commitment for getting to know my new cutie. Despite the religious and masochistic background (this area was named for the religious sect know for self-flagellation), this area offers solitude and a commune with nature which doesn’t require travel around the globe. The canyon contains a large selection of pictographs including the more recent and most well-known, A Blue Madonna, quite close to the entrance.
My date is an avid rock climber and photographer from Boulder, and the area attracted him because it is best known for its sport climbing. There are routes of varying degrees of difficulty from 5.2-5.12+. But don’t despair; there are plenty of other activities for all types of outdoor enthusiasts, which make this the perfect area to visit with friends. Camping at the entrance of the canyon is on a first come, first serve basis and at only $5-$15 night is a bargain. Water and toilets are available for the faint of heart. There are two mountain bike loops that can be accessed from the camping area, as well as hiking loops that are all in the easy to moderate range. We did a short loop hike on Mountain Bike Loop A; on another day it will make for a quick trail run. The La Garita Cash store, located in a small wood building, is just a few minutes away from the campground if you’re in dire need of refreshments or other forgotten sundries. Be sure to visit the San Luis Valley Public Lands for details before heading out.
Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge:
We were enjoying each other’s company and didn’t want a too short hike to force our day to end. We decided to take a slow drive back to Alamosa and stopped several times on our journey. Our next stop was the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. It is an artificially created riparian habitat that supports both waterfowl and shore birds. One need never leave the car with viewing pullouts throughout the two mile long roadway. Conversation will naturally melt away as the serenity of the water and wetlands washes over you. Park and take a half-mile long stroll on the wood-planked walking path. This provides a more intimate way of viewing the birds as well as better photo opportunities. Though this area was created for the protection of birds, namely the sandhill cranes, we found the beaver, working away on his dam, the most entertaining. Illustrated viewing stations provide all the information you need to get the most out of your visit, though it is always wise to peruse their webpage before visiting in case of last minute closures.
Monte Vista Railcar Cemetery:
One of the last stops on our day of dates was at the railroad cemetery in Monte Vista. Northwest of the intersection of Highways160 and 285, behind the Dairy Queen, is a railroad cemetery. As a transportation buff, this was the highlight of my day. It looks as if this was formerly a railroad station, now likely operated as a historical museum of sorts. More than twenty non-working railroad cars sit in this graveyard, presumably waiting for renewal. Step gingerly around the debris and get a glimpse of past eras. Historic snow plows, engines, and cattle cars rest here. Remember that these trains will likely be restored for future generations to enjoy. Please don’t take pieces and parts as personal mementos or leave your mark on the cars.
We spent a wonderful day exploring a small part of the valley and I look forward to future explorations as my semester at Adams State continues.